Central Texas is one of the most beautiful spots in the nation, in part because of our wonderful natural resources. This includes our open areas, parks, the hill country, good clean air and great lakes. I live on ten acres in the Hill Country and treasure these great natural resources. I pledge to do my part to preserve our natural resources for generations to follow. Water is a topic which yields great emotion all over Texas it is no different here. Whether you're talking about surface water, lake levels, ground water, water wells or water rates, emotions run high.
As you know, Texas is facing record drought conditions that could, because of the effects of a longer than average "La Nina" cycle, continue for some time. Unless we receive significant rainfall soon, I would anticipate that in the upcoming legislative session water will be a highly contentious issue. We will have to make difficult decisions and explore new ideas to meet the needs of an ever-increasing population. Our citizens, legislators, and state agencies will have to come up with creative solutions such as desalinization plants along the coast, additional reservoirs and rerouting water from areas where water may be plentiful to areas of need . The challenge will be how to pay for these solutions in a time of economic stress.
According to LCRA, Central Texas has enough surface water to last for some 50 years with only minimal conservation efforts and with additional measures that can be stretched to nearly 100 years. I support incentive based conservation measures for individuals, such as a tax credit for rainwater harvesting, grey water use and state of the art individual septic systems. I have built my own rainwater harvesting system and capture, to the extent it rains, much of the water we need. In some cases, it may be appropriate that commercial users be required to meet certain conservation efforts. Rice farmers downstream will have to conserve more.
The highland lakes are an important part of central Texas in many ways, not the least of which is the economic boost it gives to our area. I favor a change in legislation which will require LCRA to factor in the economic value of the lakes when deciding the amount of draw down for downstream uses and flood control.
Small public and private water systems serving a captive set of residents are subject to rate scrutiny just as large systems are. There needs to be a way for small water systems to decide water rates without an expensive rate fight. I introduced legislation in 2011 which would provide for just such a mechanism and I hope that I can work again on this issue in 2013.
I am working hard on creating a groundwater conservation district for western Travis County, and will continue to do so. During the interim, I have met with constituents, local elected officials and community leaders and attended numerous briefings to better understand what it takes to secure a groundwater conservation district for the people of House District 47. Long term planning and management of ground water is necessary so that water supplies are available for all residents for all time. I do not favor development restrictions which would limit an individual from drilling a residential water well or which could be used to kill development. On the other hand,developers do have a responsibility to see to it that any development they build will have the necessary water without affecting neighboring water wells.
I will again request to be placed on the Natural Resources Committee in the House. In this way, Lake Travis area residents will be represented on this important committee.